It’s no secret that illnesses and infections are more prevalent during the winter months. If you’re a parent of young children, you’re likely aware of the seemingly endless sick days that get accrued this time of year. This can result in time out of school and forced PTO days at work.
The nonstop sniffles and runny noses are enough to wear any parent down. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help prevent sickness. We’re breaking down exactly why you’re more likely to get sick during the winter and what you can do to avoid illness this year.
Can winter make you sick?
Technically, yes. There are a number of reasons why people tend to get sick more often during the winter months. From colder weather to lack of exercise to spending more time in close quarters, the cold-weather months can lead to an increase in illness.
To help prevent sickness, it's important to take care of your immune system by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. It's also important to practice good hygiene like washing your hands regularly and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
Why do people get sick in the winter?
You're not imagining things — more people do get sick in the winter. Cold weather can weaken the immune system. Because the body is not as effective at fighting a virus when cold air enters the nose and upper airways, making it easier for viruses and other illness-causing germs to take hold.
When the body is exposed to cold temperatures, blood flow to the surface of the skin increases in order to keep the body warm. This can cause the immune system to become less effective at fighting off infection. As temperatures start to drop in the fall and winter months, more viruses are present in the environment.
Another reason why people are more prone to illness in the winter is that they’re more likely to spend time indoors, where germs can easily spread from one person to another. When people are cooped up inside, they’re in closer proximity to each other, which makes it easier for germs to spread through the air or by touching shared surfaces.
The dry air that is common in the winter can also contribute to the spread of illness. Dry air can dry out the mucous membranes in the nose and throat, compromising the body's first line of defense against infection. When these membranes are dry and cracked, it is easier for germs to enter the body and cause illness.
What sickness can you get from cold weather?
There are several illnesses that people are more susceptible to during cold weather. The flu is one of the most common viruses spread during the winter. Cold weather can weaken the immune system, making it easier for the flu virus to take hold.
Other common cold-weather illnesses include colds, which are caused by different types of viruses, and pneumonia, an infection of the lungs that can be caused by bacteria or viruses. Cold weather can also worsen certain health conditions, such as asthma and arthritis.
Can you get the flu from cold weather?
The flu is caused by a virus, not by cold weather itself. However, cold weather can make the body more at risk of the flu virus. When the body is exposed to cold temperatures, blood flow to the surface of the skin increases in order to keep the body warm.
This can cause the immune system to become less effective at fighting off infection, making it easier for the flu virus to take hold. People also tend to spend more time indoors during cold months, where it is easier for the flu virus to spread from person to person. So while cold weather itself does not cause the flu, it can increase the likelihood of getting the flu.
This is one reason why getting your flu shot is so important. While it’s a good idea to get vaccinated early in the winter season, it’s never too late to protect yourself against the virus. CareNow® urgent care clinics offer flu shots for just $20.
Learn more about urgent care services
Do viruses spread in cold weather?
Yes, viruses can spread in cold weather. Cold weather itself doesn't cause viruses to spread, but it can make the body more susceptible to viral infections. Just like with the flu, an increase in blood flow to the surface of the skin can make the immune system less effective at fighting off infection
Unlike the summer months when everyone is outdoors as much as possible, people tend to congregate inside during cold weather. This close proximity puts people at risk of spreading viruses back and forth as well.
How to prevent getting sick this winter
While there’s no way to guarantee you won’t get sick this winter, there are some things you can do to help keep yourself and your family healthy. Here are some tips for avoiding illness:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
- Avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, nose, and eyes.
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Get a flu shot.
- Drink plenty of fluids and eat a balanced diet.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Dress warmly and avoid exposing yourself to extreme cold.
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as cups and utensils.
- Avoid close contact with sick individuals.
Whether you’re suffering from an illness during the cold weather month or simply looking for ways to boost your immune system, visiting CareNow® can help keep you healthy this winter.
We offer a Web Check-In® feature that will allow you to avoid the waiting room and arrive right on time for your appointment. Our clinics are also open after hours and on the weekend when most medical offices are closed.
Don’t forget, we’ve earned the distinction of Accredited Urgent Care Center from our industry’s association, Urgent Care Association (UCA).